A village in southern Bavaria. Photo: DPA.
Hate and hostility towards groups deemed to be different are not just sentiments felt by fringe extremists, a new report on Bavaria shows.
Bavarians are particularly hostile towards Muslims, the unemployed and Sinti and Roma people, according to a study released by social scientists at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich on Monday.
“Group-focused hostility is a widespread phenomenon in Bavaria, in particular the denigration of Muslims, the long-term unemployed, Sinti and Roma, as well as refugees,” the report states.
Social scientists surveyed more than 1,700 people in the state between April and June and asked them a series of questions including to rate how "pleasant" it would be to have foreign neighbours, and whether inter-racial marriages should happen.
“It is a phenomenon of the middle,” study co-author Christian Ganser told the Münchner Merkur
Animosity towards Muslims
Muslims in Bavaria make up roughly 4 percent of the state’s population, but this group elicited the strongest feelings from respondents.
More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed expressed mid- to high-level hostility towards Muslims, meaning they felt threatened by people who practice Islam, and felt negatively about the religion’s culture and activities.
The study noted that often people with these feelings conflate Muslims and all foreigners, therefore reflecting that the hostility may have less to do with the religion than that some perceive them as being fundamentally foreign in Germany.
After Muslims, Bavarian respondents expressed high levels of hostility towards the unemployed and towards Sinti and Roma - 35 percent felt animosity towards each of these groups.
And about one in three (32 percent) were hostile towards refugees.
Beyond that, one in five expressed anti-Semitic views, such as blaming Jews for certain world problems. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of Bavarians held homophobic feelings, such as that gay people are not moral, or should not have certain rights.
Despite the scepticism of groups seen as “other” in Bavaria, respondents didn’t express as negative feelings towards foreigners in general: 10 percent showed mid- to high-levels of xenophobia.
And another 10 percent showed signs of - as the study called it - “classic racism”, such as viewing black people less positively than white people.
Correlation with gender, education and friend groups
Bavarian women were less likely than men to feel hostility towards certain groups: For example, while 23 percent of men revealed anti-Semitic ideas, 19 percent of women did the same. And while one in four (25 percent) Bavarian men demonstrated mid- to high- levels of homophobia, just 14 percent of women also did.
The study also found divides based on educational levels: those with higher levels of education had less hostile attitudes towards others.
Researchers further observed a correlation between high levels of group-focused hostility and people who both strongly identify with Germany and have a low level of trust in political institutions.
People who said they identified as “citizens of the world” expressed less hostility towards others. And those who had contact with people from different groups within their circles of friends or through their education also had lesser feelings of hostility.
Munich less hostile
The report also noted how the state capital of Munich was filled with less hostility than the rest of Bavaria, thus bringing down the average levels of negative attitudes. While outside Munich 60 percent of respondents showed hostility towards Muslims, less than half of Munich dwellers felt the same (49 percent).
This was true for all other forms of prejudice, except racism: 11 percent of Munich locals expressed racist ideas, while throughout all other areas this figure was 9 percent.